Parliament is back in Canberra this week for a sitting ostensibly about passing the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation which, if defeated, will give Malcolm Turnbull the trigger needed for a double-dissolution election to be held in July.
But the real discussion in the capital will be about the government’s rapidly-evaporating support in the polls and the extent to which policy indecision from Turnbull is accountable for the decline.
Two polls out this morning are a warning to the Turnbull government that the forthcoming election is far from a foregone conclusion. Beyond the headline findings that there’s no noticeable difference between the parties on the two-party preferred measure (50-50 or Bill Shorten’s Labor with a slight lead at 51-49, depending on the poll), it’s the plunging faith in Turnbull that is the standout feature.
In the Ipsos / Fairfax poll, Turnbull’s approval rating has fallen to 51% from a high of 68% while his disapproval rating has more than double in the job to 38%.
In The Australian’s Newspoll, Turnbull’s “dissatisfied” number has climbed to 49%, from 31% back in January.
Peter Hartcher writes in the SMH:
The three biggest movements in public opinion all point to disappointment at Turnbull’s inaction.
Is Turnbull a strong leader? Six months ago, 75 per cent of respondents said so. Today, 55 per cent say so. A slump of 20 per cent in six months is a dramatic change in the assessment of a leader.
Does he have a clear vision for Australia’s future? Again, a sharp fall, down by 19 per cent.
The biggest letdown is in answer to this question: Is he a leader who has the ability to get things done? The number of those who say so has fallen by 25 per cent in six months.
The results show that the big realignment of public support is all about Turnbull.
There are some obvious areas in which Turnbull has tripped up. He has sent confusing messages on tax reform – examining a GST increase and then ditching it, and then a bizarre proposal to give the states power to raise income tax, only to reveal it was a gambit to put the screw on state premiers putting their hands out for federal money. For small-l liberals he has also done nothing on either climate change or marriage equality.
The other major poll finding is the vast public support for a royal commission to investigate the nation’s banking sector. 65 per cent of voters support the royal commission while one-quarter, or 26 per cent, are opposed. More than three-quarters of Labor and Greens voters support the idea, as well as a majority – 53% – of Coalition voters. There’s more on that at the AFR.
Turnbull and the government retain a strong lead on two critical measures: preferred PM and economic management. The Newspoll finds Turnbull leading Shorten 47-28
as preferred prime minister and, asked which party would spend more responsibly and manage government debt, 45% said the Coalition while 31% said Labor.
Turnbull said recently that in the forthcoming election “there is only one central issue – whether we complete our transition to the new economy or we allow Labor to kill off that opportunity”, signalling his battleground of choice on the hustings ahead.